Wednesday, 12 January 2011

2010 The Year in Sustainability

2010 has been a big year for sustainability at the University of Greenwich, and looking back at what we have achieved I believe we can be proud of how we have taken the University forward.

The successes of the Sustainability Team were reflected in the People & Planet Green League which was released in April when the University of Greenwich jumped from 103rd (2009) up to 61st. Sustainability issues are moving further up the agenda within the higher education sector so it will be difficult to achieve such a large jump this year, although we are of course committed to keep improving and constantly reviewing the University’s approach to sustainability.

January 2010 saw the University of Greenwich present and approve its Sustainability Policy, which can be seen here ( and is signed off by the University’s Vice Chancellor Tessa Blackstone. The policy draws together the findings of a baseline review that was conducted to establish the University’s environmental aspects and impacts and develops a policy to deal with these. The policy was drawn together as part of the environmental management system that the University has signed up for (EcoCampus). In the summer of 2010 the University was awarded the Bronze award by EcoCampus and we hope we are just a couple of months away from achieving Silver now.

EcoCampus Bronze Award

With carbon and energy reduction becoming a key priority through the Carbon Reduction Commitment being introduced into UK law and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) introducing requirements linked to carbon reduction as part of their Capital Investment Framework (CIF2), the University has taken some significant steps towards addressing these issues. HEFCE require that each institution should have a carbon management plan submitted by March 2011 and have set a sector wide target of 43% reduction in emissions by 2020 (against a 2005/06 baseline), so many of the cogs whirring away in the Sustainability Team are working towards achieving that target.

On waste the University has seen new bins being introduced at the Greenwich Campus which are divided in two for main two waste streams that the University creates. However the recycling rate at the University varies widely from very good in some areas achieving nearly 70% recycling and the not so good where some areas are achieving no better than 30% recycling. In 2011 waste and recycling will rise up the agenda and as a result we will expect the amount of waste generated to go down along with the amount sent to landfill and the percentage of waste recycled to go up. The University ran a very successful re-use campaign at the end of the summer term in 2010 diverting would-be waste from Avery Hill halls of residences to the benefit of charities through CRISP. Internally the emergence of reusing everything and anything through the University’s own unofficial freecycle of the ‘all-staff-announce’ emails has been a great success – in fact the Sustainability team office is kitted out with many an item first offered on the internal email.

New Bins at Greenwich Campus

Food has been another area of achievement for the University, following on from 2009’s award for discontinuing the use of bottled water in hospitality. The University was awarded the Good Egg award at the Good Food on the Public Plate Awards and were celebrated for five areas of achievement, including the use of organic milk, free range eggs and MSC certified fish. On top of these achievements 2010 saw the first meeting of the Fairtrade Steering Group which includes the Students Union (SUUG), the Medway Student Association (UMSA), ABM (the main University caterers) and Sodexo (who also provide some catering on campus) who are all intent on achieving Fairtrade Status for the University.

Biodiversity has appeared on the agenda for the University in 2010 with the creation of the Biodiversity Steering Group and draft Biodiversity Action Plans have been drawn up for each of the University’s sites. 900m2 has been identified on the Avery Hill Campus for an agricultural grade pollen and nectar bee mix to be planted, which will be great news for the two hives of bees that now occupy the gardens at Southwood House. Greenwich Campus has also seen five hives introduced in 2010 into the mausoleum area, right next to where Sir Thomas Hardy (Nelson’s right hand man) is buried, and all these bees will busy pollinating come the springtime. Good news for anyone who wants to use the fruits of the campus for, blackberry and apple pie, quince jelly or sloe gin (on that note I would have to say 2010 sloe harvest produced a delicious couple of bottles!)

The Sustainability Team has experienced a lot of growth this year, even without the pollination of the bees on hand! Of course there is the very important addition to the team in the shape of the Green Gnome (yours truly) who has been prolific in his blog writing and on twitter, oh and John too, who joined the Sustainability Team in April, and has now signed up for a further 12 months with the Sustainability Team. Along with the direct additions to the team we have now swelled in influence thanks to the creation of the Sustainability Champions Network. There is now a sustainability champion in almost every department helping to promote the University’s Sustainability Policy and to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable practice within their department. To help them do this the Green Impact project has been rolled out for the first time in the University and our sustainability champions are busy implementing tasks such as setting all printers in their department to print double sided, promoting the University’s green travel initiatives and implementing shutdown plans to ensure energy is not wasted over holidays and weekends.

Green Gnome

The sustainability champions are proving to be a key communication channel to the wider University community, and that is not the only step towards better communication we have seen. The sustainability website is soon to launch following on from the emergence of the sustainability twitter feed and of course this blog. The Sustainability Induction was introduced for new starters (and existing interested staff) and also for the new student Residential Assistants. Interserve the University’s new suppliers for portering and cleaning had to include their sustainability credentials when tendering for the cleaning contract and this is something that all our suppliers will be expected to do in the future.
New Green Cleaning products

John and Kat became more involved with LUEG, the London Universities Environmental Group, both taking up places on the group’s executive board, and hosted the LUEG AGM at Greenwich in the summer time.

Travel wise John and Kat continue to cycle to work on a daily basis and were both in the top five riders from the University that took part in the TFL London Cycle Challenge in June, Neil Garrod, Tom Barnes and Adele brooks were the other three. Overall the University clocked up more than 10,500 miles, saving around three tonnes of CO2 and burning the equivalent of over 1,500 Mars bars in calories. The University has also been successful in receiving funding from Walking Works to promote walking to, from and while at work and Simon Baldwin from Accommodation walked away with 24 mince pies as a result of winning the walking to work mince pie challenge.

Before this turns into a dissertation I shall sign off with the knowledge that I haven’t even started to tell you about the 100 or so projects identified to go into the Carbon Management Plan, the voltage optimisation units that have been installed, the Greenwich graduate attributes or about many of the other Sustainability success stories that have emerged from the University of Greenwich Sustainability Team over the course of 2010. Here’s to 2010 and to a look towards 2011 hoping that we will be even more successful over the next 12 months. Happy New Year!

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